Friday, April 22, 2005

The Spirituality of Gilligan's Island

So I got to thinking about Gilligan's Island (or "Gilligan's Isle," according to the song about the "three hour tour" etc.) this morning while reading the Psalms, specifically Psalm 49, "Why should I fear troubled times?" I got to pondering the underlying meaning of the place.

Don't laugh; I'm serious.

Here we have an extremely wealthy couple (the Howells), a famous movie star (Ginger), a highly intelligent person (the Professor), a person who is none of these things but who is nonetheless very sweet and kind (Mary Ann), together with the Skipper and the lovably clueless Gilligan. When they are shipwrecked on the island, what happens? Suddenly, all the things that separate them from each other, all the things that would have ensured that under ordinary circumstances they would never have spent five minutes in each other's company, are gone. Or not so much gone as rendered irrelevant. The Howells still have trunks full of money, Ginger still has her slinky gowns and drop dead good looks, the professor still has his intelligence, but they cease to mean anything. And people like Mary Ann and Gilligan, who are meek and gentle and kind, qualities that the world neither values nor has any place for, have a contribution to make, a place in this new, accidental community.

The show was a laugh a minute, funny as anything, but underneath the laughter was an incredibly serious message, that can be summed up in the verse from the Psalms, "Why should I fear troubled times?" That is to say, if you take away everything that can be taken from us, what remains? Who are we underneath all that stuff? If you remove all the things that separate us from each other--money, fame, intelligence--or otherwise render them meaningless, what is left?

Kindness. Gentleness. Meekness.

When Christ says in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," maybe this is just a way of saying that in the Kingdom of God, the meek will finally have a place. God knows there is no place for the meek or meekness in this world. In this sense, maybe Gilligan's Island is an image of the Kingdom, of a community without class, without wealth, without power.

I suppose this has particular interest for me given a major new development in my own life. A couple of months ago, my father called me to tell me that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He goes in for surgery on Monday. Troubled times, indeed. And suddenly, I find myself in the middle of a process of sorting, like a castaway sifting through the wreckage, discovering many formerly valuable things to be worthless, and many things not previously considered valuable to suddenly be precious.

So if you think about it, say a prayer for Norman this weekend. And ask yourself the question: if you were stranded on a desert island with a motley band of castaways, what would be your contribution? Who are you under all that stuff? When everything that can be taken away has been taken, what is left?

And love is not the easy thing...
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind



Mimi said...

Indeed, your father is in my prayers.

My mom is a breast cancer survivor, so I've been down that road. Let me know if I can do anything.

In Christ,

Sampson said...

Thanks very much, Mimi.